Golden Ring Mall in eastern Baltimore County would be razed to make way for "big box" stores under a preliminary plan by a Virginia retail developer.
Petrie, Dierman, Kughn of McLean proposes to turn the struggling 26-year-old mall in Rosedale into a retail "power center." The developer has yet to purchase Golden Ring from owner Simon Property Group of Indianapolis, which put the mall up for sale two years ago.
The plan under consideration by Baltimore County officials would eliminate all interior mall stores, plus a Hecht's store and the old Caldor building. In its place would be three warehouse-style retailers with their own entrances off a parking lot. Only the existing two-story Wards department store would remain.
The mall has been losing business to thriving centers nearby. Caldor, its third anchor, closed its doors in 1998.
"We are investigating and looking at the potential of redeveloping the property," Walter Petrie, a principal with Petrie, Dierman, Kughn, said yesterday. "It is not anything that's been firmed up yet, so consequently I'm not at liberty to tell you what we're doing there, because we haven't firmed it up ourselves."
It was unclear yesterday whether Petrie, Dierman, Kughn has a contract on the nearly 33-acre property just off the Beltway.
"The only communication we've had from Simon corporate is the mall is still for sale," said Pamela Snyder, the mall's marketing director. "It has not been purchased."
A spokeswoman in Simon's corporate office declined to comment.
The plan proposes a 129,000-square-foot discount department store, a 128,000- square-foot warehouse club, a 114,000-square-foot home improvement store, the existing Wards, two smaller sites for stand-alone tenants and parking for 1,875 cars.
"We understand that the mall's under contract," said Charles H. Knittle, a spokesman for Wards in Chicago. "We obviously would like to stay there. It's a good location for us."
But the department store chain will wait for final plans before deciding whether to remodel its Golden Ring store, which opened in 1975. The chain is remodeling its other stores in the Baltimore area, Knittle said.
Petrie, Dierman, Kughn is proposing or building several other "power centers" in the region. The $75 million, 700,000-square-foot Centre at Hagerstown will house more than 40 stores and restaurants, including Home Depot, a Wal-Mart SuperCenter, Borders Books and Music, Dick's Clothing & Sporting Goods, Marshall's, OfficeMax, Circuit City, PetsMart, A. C. Moore and Pier 1 Imports.
Baltimore County's Development Review Committee reviewed the developer's Golden Ring proposal and found it eligible for a limited exemption.
That means before building permits could be issued, the devel oper would need to submit a site plan to the county's planning, zoning and public works staffs.
The proposal, as it stands, would not need to go through a public process, said Donald Rascoe, development manager.
Golden Ring, one of the area's older suburban malls, opened in 1974 with a Stewart & Co., Montgomery Ward and Hecht's.
But since the mid-1980s, the center has lost shoppers and tenants to newer, larger regional malls.
Golden Ring has lost out to White Marsh Mall, which has added anchor department stores, and Eastpoint Mall, which has thrived by finding a niche in the local community.
Developers have been able to breathe new life into many older centers by "de-malling" them and bringing in big box retailers.
Golden Ring store managers complained yesterday that sales have been slow -- and some say getting worse.
Nearly half of the second-level stores are vacant. One of the largest retailers, Lerner New York, which occupied about four storefronts, closed yest terday.
Merchants said rumors of redevelopment plans have spread over the past two years. Management told the tenents a few months ago that the mall was for sale.
"We'd like to have some notice so that we can find a place to move and have some plan for our employees," said Paula Trinh, manager of Nail Trix salon.
Despite the mall's troubles, the site remains a prime location for the right kind of retail, said Susan Anderson, a vice president of H&R Retail.
Sun staff writer Amanda Crawford contributed to this article.